It’s Sunday morning, 00:05AM, to be precise. My Saturday night was as spectacular as anyone’s in this current pandemic. Indoors and bored.
I have chosen to stay off the alcohol for the majority of this lockdown to keep away any added depression or self loathing that a Sunderland fan does not exactly need right now.
There is enough going on.
Tonight I crumbled. A bottle of red wine was sitting pretty and desirable in my kitchen press, pleading for me to open it. Weak, I whimpered as I reached for the bottle opener and wallowed in self-pity as I drank my pain away.
However, tonight was unusual. Slightly disturbing even. In an extraordinary contrast from the norm, I was overcome with an urge. The urge to write about why Mick McCarthy is the right man to take this club forward.
And here is why.
Mick McCarthy joined Sunderland in 2003 after the eventual sacking of Howard Wilkinson. From the day he arrived, he was fighting an uphill task - for the next three years, Mick was assembling a squad on a budget as small as the days Emmauel Eboué spent at our club in March 2016.
In the two subsequent two seasons that followed, McCarthy searched high and low for value in the transfer market with essentially two hands tied behind his back. He did however secure some outstanding pieces of business only a shrewd manager could do.
Players like Gary Breen, Carl Robinson, Danny Collins and Dean Whitehead, to name a few, were signed. Over these two seasons, Sunderland’s total outlay on players bought was just under £200,000, the majority of that spent on securing the services of Danny Collins from Chester City. Showing an aptitude to secure players who not only are good enough, but are the correct characters. Hunger, desire and enthusiasm are all words that can be used to describe the players above and also some others that were bought during this time such as Steven Elliott, Liam Lawrence and Steven Caldwell.
This is what we need.
For too long, managers and owners alike have spent money blindly at this club in almost a thought process that the larger sums of money spent on a player, the better he will be for us. Us fans can be naive to this process, myself included. I still shudder at the thought of what we spent on Will Grigg.
In our current circumstances, with no change in ownership in sight, we need a manager that can see a bargain in the market. Someone who treats a budget, like he is spending his own money. Someone who actually knows what a good player looks like.
McCarthy’s bargain hunting success is not only isolated to his time at Sunderland. During his six years at Ipswich Town, his budget was almost the same. Owner Marcus Evans, scarred by the horror show of Roy Keane’s transfer dealings at the club, was a lot more frugal by the time Mick arrived, leaving the ex Irish international player and manager to use his magic formula all over again.
Daryl Murphy, Stephen Hunt, Jonathan Douglas and David McGoldrick are just a few examples of players that were brought in by McCarthy for free. The list is endless. Look at David McGoldrick now, an Irish International and a Premier League player.
During these six years, Ipswich were safe as houses in England’s second tier and flirted with the play offs a couple of occasions in this period. It began to turn sour for Mick at the end of these six years with their fans apparently becoming sick of his style of play and mid table finishes in the Championship. The year he left, Ipswich were relegated and are now currently 11th in League One. Point proven.
Not only is he a man who can see a bargain, Mick McCarthy is a man who has consistently been able to build a team spirit. He is a man of the people. He is also a strong man manager. Roy Keane aside, McCarthy is well known for his charismatic ways and ability to forge strong relationships with his players. It is no surprise that so many players that have played under him have been managed by him at more than one club. He gets the best out of his players.
Again, this is what we need.
Yes, I acknowledge Phil Parkinson is our manager. I am not calling for his head yet. Do I think he will be our manager next season? I have my reservations. He is not a man who inspires me with confidence, and from the way we were playing pre lockdown, he is not a man that appears to be inspiring his squad either.
Sunderland need a presence. A leader. A man who knows how to win leagues. A man with thick skin. A man who can take the inevitable heat that comes with being the manager of Sunderland Football Club.
Mick McCarthy is that man.
Oh, and the name of the wine? Batturica Gran Reservia 2011. Originated in Tarragona. Absolutely divine. Recommend to a friend.